The start of a new year is the perfect time to take stock of your finances and set personal and savings goals for the year ahead. You might have overspent during the festive season and the holidays, so setting aside some time to outline what you want to achieve in the coming year is a great way to get back on track. Whether you’re looking to put away money for a housing deposit or an emergency fund, by following these 10 steps you’ll be hitting your financial goals in no time.
1. Set specific goals
Research has proven that we’re more likely to achieve our goals if they are written down, so if you’re serious about hitting your goals for the new year, whether they be financial or personal, write them down. Set realistic goals that are achievable within the timeframe you’ve given, and make sure they comply with the SMART framework, meaning they’re specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound.
Ensure your goals truly resonate with you, because if they don’t, you might find it hard to stay motivated and make the compromises necessary to achieve them. Once you’ve set your goals, create a visual reminder so you can see them every day and stay focused. This could be a list on a whiteboard, in an app in your phone, or on your computer desktop.
2. Set realistic savings targets
Specific and relevant financial goals are supported by realistic savings targets. You’ll need a detailed budget to set realistic savings targets. Estimate your future outgoings by working out what you’ve spent in the past three to six months, and deduct this amount from your expected income. The difference is what you can realistic expect to save at the most. You can then work out the weekly, fortnightly, or monthly amount you can put away towards your ultimate goal.
3. Automate your savings
Eliminate temptation by automating your savings so you never touch what goes into your savings account. You can set up a recurring, automatic payment that pays a specific amount into a no-withdrawals savings account on payday. By automating it, you’re making it easier to live on what’s remaining in your account. Money out of sight is money out of mind.
4. Shop and spend smart
Get enthusiastic about saving more on everyday expenses such as groceries at the supermarket and clothing, along with bigger items such as flights and gadgets. You can find great bargains for just about everything online. By doing a little research on grocery basics such as food and household items, you can end up saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the course of a year. Take the time to shop around and try to avoid making frivolous purchases.
5. Explore tools and apps for budgeting
If you don’t like using apps and want something simple, a budget worksheet template or an Excel spreadsheet can help you with budgeting. The key issue is to have an accurate, detailed record of incomings and outgoings so you can measure outcomes and adjust your spending in an informed manner.
6. Switch and compare
Utilities and insurance are core household expenditure items. Take the initiative and start researching your insurance, energy, and other utilities options – and even perhaps your mortgage. Many of these companies offer specials if you switch to their plans, which could be much more competitively priced than your current provider, even without any special offers.
7. Research financial products
Get to know what’s available in terms of financial products, especially high-interest savings accounts and credit card balance transfer offers. High-interest savings accounts give you a much better return on investment. If you have outstanding credit card debt, switching to another bank could help you save hundreds or more in interest.
8. Live minimalistically
The minimalistic-living trend has reached the mainstream. By learning living minimalistically, with less clutter, you’re likely to buy less of what you don’t need, avoid impulse buys, and end up saving more. For example, you could save as much as US$600 a year if you maintain a capsule wardrobe instead of a regular one.
9. Look for entertainment discounts online
You can save more while enjoying life by comparing prices online before you go out. Sign up to daily deal sites, look for cheap Tuesdays deals at cinemas and restaurants, and take advantage of coupons and special deals when eating out.
10. Review, reflect, and commit
Reviewing your budget is crucial for tracking your progress. Check in with your list of savings goals and your budget at least once a week. If you’ve been successful, reward yourself with a little treat. If you’ve fallen short, check why you haven’t reached that week’s milestone and recommit to your goals.
If you’re serious about reaching your personal and savings goals, follow these steps to ensure you achieve your personal and financial targets for the new year. As long as you support these goals with an actionable plan, you can take control of your money and ensure it’s a driver rather than an obstacle for your success and happiness.